“High vibrations … Transformations … Let’s go higher.” These are among the opening words of Family Atlantica’s Soundways release Cosmic Unity, the second such offering from the London-based ensemble with roots in Africa and Venezuela. Such is the group’s nature: a heady and eclectic brew of latin funk, calypso, African highlife, and even Ethiopian jazz (the Mulatu Astatke-vibes on “Enjera” are unmistakable, and come as no surprise, as the man himself appeared on the group’s self-titled debut). This go-round features contributions from Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen on alto saxophone, electronic winds and vocals, and Nigeria’s Orlando Julius on tenor sax.
With that pedigree, soaring horns, meditative vibraphone, fierce polyrhythms, wah-wah guitar, blues vamps and afro-funk chants (some sung, some spoken word) all meld together in seamless, cosmic unity. As a whole the record cuts a dense, tropical swath stretching across fifteen tracks (some coming in at just under a minute) — a “vast web of diverse musical styles…a sonic kaleidoscope…united by an echoing resonance of Africa,” as bandleader Jack Yglesias puts it. Fast paced energy, political undertones and vibrant diversity lend this record an almost psychedelic quality, and a timeless one at that. words / c depasquale